By Ezra Stead
Wasted on the Young, USA, 2010
Directed by Evan Drolet Cook
More than any other movie I can remember, Evan Drolet Cook’s Wasted on the Young is Minneapolis. It evoked nostalgic feelings in me that undoubtedly make it impossible for me to fairly and objectively review the film, but as producer Riley Lang told me, that was the film’s goal. It set out to be a slice of life in the Minneapolis of 2009, and at that it succeeds commendably, but I think it also manages to reach a little further than that, nicely exploring the sentiment behind the famous quote that lends the film its title.
Wasted follows several different characters through several days in their lives in what is essentially an ensemble comedy. The primary protagonist is Matt (Matt Franta), a sort of directionless guy who is not above lying about being a vegetarian in order to favorably impress Susan (Sara Marie Reinke), a rather neurotic woman with whom he has become infatuated. Matt’s best friend, Cody (Cody Sorensen), is basically the comic relief to Matt’s straight man, and he is having relationship troubles of his own, having recently told his girlfriend, Laura (Anna Reichert), that he loves her, though he isn’t really sure he meant it. Now he fears he’s going to have to say it over and over again until they break up, which is generally how these things go. A third player in this circle of friends is Rachel (Hannah Glaser), whose boyfriend, Ian (John Toycen), has increasingly begun to alienate her with his non-stop singer-songwriter-ing; he has become, much to her chagrin, that douchebag who brings his guitar to parties and plays his whiny emo songs whether anyone likes them or not.
The final piece of the puzzle is Jeffrey (Greg Hernandez), a somewhat older friend of the other three who is currently single and who seems somewhat out of place with the rest, though this is clearly intentional. Hernandez plays the part almost as a sort of idiot savant, a gentle, enthusiastic optimist who is just learning to drive in his thirties, which seems to be the latest in a long string of passionate pursuits on which he has embarked for reasons perhaps only known to himself. Hernandez couldn’t be more different than in his last feature film role, as the psychotic T.K. In James Vogel’s The City, showing his range of skill as an actor. I won’t lie and say he isn’t a friend of mine, but even if he weren’t, this would be an actor to watch.
Along with the late twenties crowd, we meet Cody’s younger brother, Billy (Trevor Anderson), and his friends Nick (Ryan Kopperud) and Sonny (Nick Ochs), a trio of listless youths in their early twenties who will undoubtedly follow in the wandering footsteps of their older counterparts. The ennui and uncertainty of modern life is well-captured in Cook’s screenplay, co-written with Basil el-Ghazzawy, which is dialogue-heavy and undoubtedly assisted by improvisation from the cast, but also well constructed, with foreshadowing and the kind of character nuances that the more experienced actors in the film can really sink their teeth into. This is especially true of Hernandez as Jeffrey and Reinke as Susan, which are undoubtedly the standout performances of the film, though everyone involved is likable and convincing, despite the fact that many of them had never acted before.
The biggest weaknesses of the film can also be traced back to the script, however, such as a self-conscious moment in which Cody disses a certain highly successful but critically loathed comedic actor, then winks knowingly at the camera. It works on its own as a satirical jab at the hipster tendency to jump on the hate bandwagon, but as it is the only moment of broken fourth wall in the film, it stands out like a sore cliche. My only other major complaint is a structural one, when at the end of the film Cook decides to show the last two days of the storyline a bit out of sequence. Again, this could work but for the fact that it is the only instance of such maneuvering in an otherwise primarily linear, almost documentary-style film. All in all, though, Wasted on the Young is a success, a distinctive and realistic piece of a time and place that also manages to resonate beyond that, by exploring feelings common to the young on whom youth is always wasted, regardless of where and when they find themselves.
For more info, or to see the film yourself for only a dollar, visit: http://wastedontheyoungmovie.com
Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper and poet who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com.